Author Archives: Peter Anthony Gales

Do you give confronting feedback?

Do you give confronting feedback?

Recently my girlfriend gave me feedback on my writing, and it didn’t go well. Just about everything that we knew about what to do, or not do when giving feedback went wrong, and I felt personally attacked.  Funny thing is that we are both trained and experienced in giving and receiving feedback.

But it went wrong anyway.

Only days before, she recounted how she took critical feedback personally, so it’s clear we forget to practice what we know.

what’s going on when feedback goes awry

Many things can go wrong when giving feedback e.g the giver is too rough and ignores what’s working, or too nice and ignores what’s not, but the biggest thing that can go wrong with feedback is having it land on the person and not on her work.

Receiver takes it personally

Photo by Giorgio Parravicini

That’s what happened with me and my girlfriend. I felt that I, not my work, was the focus of her feedback which expressed her deep disappointment in me. I took it personally, (even though I’ve written about why not to). Instead of feeling encouraged to fly, I felt I could never soar like an eagle because I was flapping little penguin wings.

The emotional minefield

Perhaps where we both went wrong was forgetting that every human relationship is laden with emotional (land)mines, and regardless of how strong a relationship, a careless or casual remark, can trip one off. The remark brings up something from a person’s past—a relationship with a demanding parent or being unfairly criticized and laughed at when they were seven.

I think it’s good to approach any form of evaluation, performance appraisal, or acknowledgment with care for not setting off an emotional landmine.

Learning to confront

I believe it was in “Difficult Conversations” by Douglas Stone and Bruce Patton where I read something about giving feedback (criticizing) that stuck with me. As I recall it had to do with the strong connotations of criticism with confrontation.

Consider how we think of the word confront:

  1. oppose, as in hostility or a competition. “You must confront your opponent”; “Jackson faced Smith in the boxing ring”; “The two enemies
    flickr.com/photos/johannwalterbantz

    finally confronted each other”

  2. deal with (something unpleasant) head on; “You must confront your problems”;

The word confront connotes hostility, argument, opposition. We approach most feedback as a confrontation and we think we’ll either come out winning or losing.

Stone and Patton offered a different way of thinking about confrontation based on the original meaning of the word confront: to stand with (the person receiving the feedback), in front of (their work: the thing being evaluated). I’ve interpreted this as—

Feedback should be triangular, not linear

Photo by marklordphotography

Think of someone you need to give some important feedback to. Picture you and that person as two points of a triangle facing the third, the article, report, sculpture, video of a performance etc. Both of you are physically oriented towards the work and discussing how (helping each other) to improve it. This “triangulation” differs from how we usually give feedback.

Linear feedback

In the normal feedback formation, the giver and receiver face each other with the work in the middle. Often though, the person receiving the feedback places herself in the middle to defend her work from the criticism. She tries to protect her work because, for her, her work IS HER.

Feedback-triangulation as I call it doesn’t inoculate the receiver from hurt and defensiveness, but it does reduce the chances of this happening. Why? Because the triangular formation helps focus both sides on something external to them both.

Feedback is standing together to face a shared interest.

Can a simple physical orientation make such a difference? It can, but it’s actually more a mental orientation. The physical orientation is more like training wheels when learning to ride. With time and practice, and an ability to share when feedback is landing personally, both giver and receiver won’t need the physical orientation because they get something key to effective feedback:

We’re on the same side

Once the person receiving feedback gets that the person giving the feedback is on their side, almost anything can be said without anyone taking it personally.

But sometimes we forget we’re on the same side, as I did when I listened to my girlfriend’s very valid comments. We got it straight though. We talked things out and discovered how things landed for the other. We forgave, hugged, kissed and moved on.

Might not work with your direct reports though.

So first establish you’re on their side before giving feedback to anyone you care about, and triangulate your feedback. Your comments are about what could make the work become stronger, faster, more effective or more creative.

It’s not about the person.

Trust they will incorporate the feedback into their next attempt, and their tiny penguin flippers will grow into eagle wings, or they’ll figure out those little fellas are for rocketing through water, not air.

Photo by Teaksu Kim
The investment stock metaphor for your integrity

The investment stock metaphor for your integrity

Perhaps an investment stock is a great metaphor for your integrity—one day up, the next day down and over time trending in one direction, and then another.  People buy the stocks consistently trending up, and sell the ones trending down.  They do the same with you based on the trend of your integrity. Your integrity—asContinue Reading

Do you care who you disrespect?

Do you care who you disrespect?

Everyone is disrespectful. Some more than others. Most are unintentionally disrespectful, some intentionally. These last are usually powerful people whose disrespect is tolerated or perversely, even appreciated. But grand examples of disrespectful leaders like Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, don’t drive the small, and sometimes grossly, disrespectful acts ordinary people perpetrate every day. Yes, thereContinue Reading

Another step to a self-service future

Another step to a self-service future

Automation, artificial intelligence and robots are in the news a lot because they represent the awesome—in the real sense of the word—impact these technologies are already having on the way we live and work. The promise of more freedom, convenience, and lower cost seems futuristic until you’re sitting in the back seat of a UberContinue Reading

A better alternative to facts

A better alternative to facts

Fact-checking is hard work. It’s a lot easier to pass along that email about the Australian PM threatening Muslims to integrate or get out of the country, or about an aircraft carrier attempting to bully a lighthouse into changing course, than to check if it’s true. People often pass along stories that reinforce their worstContinue Reading

Trust but verify

Trust but verify

Most people spread lies without ambitious agendas. They often parrot other people’s talking points and opinions because it makes it sound like somebody’s home. They’ve never thought about distinctions of truth, belief, fact, opinion, assessment, gossip, and allegation, or why they matter. They’re not weak or stupid, just lazy and indoctrinated. Not surprising. Maybe weContinue Reading

Stop chasing productivity

Stop chasing productivity

Most of us chase productivity like a crack addict after his next hit. We’re compelled to buy books, attend workshops and listen to podcasts so we can become more productive. But why? That’s not a silly question. Asking it may stop you from chasing productivity like a dog chasing his tail. What’s wrong with doingContinue Reading

Why giving 100% is a faulty ideal

Why giving 100% is a faulty ideal

Saying workers are not fully engaged at work may be today’s politically correct way for managers to complain that their workers are not giving 100% at work. Well maybe that’s an unreasonable expectation. You wouldn’t expect an athlete to maintain her top speed for very long, and no engineer would think it’s a good ideaContinue Reading

The problem with chasing productivity

Most of us chase productivity like a crack addict after his next hit. We’re compelled to buy books, attend workshops and listen to podcasts so we can become more productive. But why? Silly question it seems but maybe not. Asking it may stop you from chasing productivity like a dog chasing his tail. What’s wrongContinue Reading

Are you enough?

Are you enough?

In James Arthur’s “Say you won’t let go” he sings “I met you in the dark, you lit me up. You made me feel as though I was enough” Those last three words hit me deep, and I’ve wondered why. Perhaps it’s because I’ve rarely felt I was enough. For most of my life I’veContinue Reading

Ignoring that little orange light

Ignoring that little orange light

Most of us resist change, not by any conscious decision, but by telling ourselves we don’t need to act now, that we can delay tough actions and continue with life as usual. It’s like looking at your gas gauge, seeing it approach empty and deciding you’ll get gas tomorrow, and tomorrow. The story of theContinue Reading

What Trump’s Muslim ban is really about

What Trump’s Muslim ban is really about

The idea that America allows people into the United States without checking their background has been a particularly absurd assertion to every visa-requiring visitor or immigrant who knows how intensive and intimidating the process is, especially since 9/11. Visas are routinely refused for the slightest reasons and many can never enter the U.S. A. ifContinue Reading

The lie about lies

The lie about lies

We are indoctrinated into thinking lies, all lies are bad, and creates an unnecessary internal conflict, because lie-telling plays an important role in creativity, and compassionContinue Reading

All protocols

There’s a common local practice of beginning a formal speech by saying “All protocols observed,” (APO) and then getting on with the speech. It’s so commonly done that you’d think it was protocol, but it’s not. Protocol is the accepted practice or rules of behaviour in any group, organisation or situation. Protocol exists to helpContinue Reading

The scientific consensus, and why it won’t change anyone’s mind

The scientific consensus, and why it won’t change anyone’s mind

No doubt you have strong views on something; say genetically modified foods, Crooked Hillary, legalizing marijuana, radical Islam, or dogs are better than cats. You are convinced that you’re absolutely right on the issue, and get worked up talking about it. But maybe you should step back, and for whatever it is that pushes yourContinue Reading

Fool me … Shame on who?

Fool me … Shame on who?

There’s a famous quote that goes, Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. It’s attributed to a Randall Terry but we’ll never forget—and always be grateful for—George W’s mangling of it. (Video below.) It’s an important quote because it says that individual responsibility for the truth is as much theContinue Reading

My scientists smarter than yours

My scientists smarter than yours

Not two weeks ago, I was floating on a noodle, beer in hand, life and conversation good, when the topic of climate change came up and suddenly the world seemed full of short-sighted ignorant people. It started when a new friend seemed untroubled that 2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record,Continue Reading

The half-life of a grievance

The half-life of a grievance

Every now and then, an old grievance comes to mind. There’s one about a guy who accused me of something I didn’t do, and whenever his name comes up, the grievance is right behind. Sometimes from out of nowhere the grievance enter’s the spotlight of my mind and a variation of the incident replays —oneContinue Reading

Take care who is feeding your bad wolf

Take care who is feeding your bad wolf

Every day we’re in a battle for our attention; a battle we don’t realize we’re in and so every day we surrender much of it to a media army bombarding us with stories of fear, incompetence, corruption, natural disaster, war, terrorism, human tragedy, injustice, failure, prejudice., oh, and a sprinkling of cute pet stories; youContinue Reading

What if I don’t want to do anything big with my life?

What if I don’t want to do anything big with my life?

Why don’t more of us take on the tough questions like, “What do you want to leave behind?”, or “What difference do you want your life to make?” One reason is mainstream education was specifically designed to train us for factory-type work for the top 1%, and the last thing the one percenters want isContinue Reading

What kind of person are you?

What kind of person are you?

When directed at yourself, this is perhaps the most profound questions you can ask.  “What kind of person am I? It’s a question that has no answer like 2 + 2 has an answer; we either create our own, or adopt one given to us by society or religion. Then it’s up to us toContinue Reading

The moon-shot speech of our time

The moon-shot speech of our time

For sheer audacity, nothing beats Kennedy’s speech to “…land a man on the moon and bring him safely back to the earth.” He could have said, “We will make the biggest pizza pie the world has ever seen and have every American eat a slice with the Soviet Union watching on live TV,” but thatContinue Reading

What is the “I have a dream” speech of today?

What is the “I have a dream” speech of today?

What is the inspiring, galvanizing speech of our time? What is the “I have a dream” (King), Gettysburg address (Lincoln), the “We shall fight on the beaches” (Churchill) of today? Did I miss it? I think great speeches are out there, but no single speech is having the lasting mass movement effect of any ofContinue Reading

The problem with “Back in the day” thinking

The problem with “Back in the day” thinking

Boy do we love the good old days. When life was sweeter and had meaning. Now everyone’s fond of saying “back in the day” (BITD). “BITD” really works to glorify the past doesn’t it? Perhaps because it implies that we’re not “in the day” now; that now we’re in the night or some cloudy, overcastContinue Reading

Trump’s success formula and what we can emulate

Trump’s success formula and what we can emulate

We all know the risk of being insensitive, rude and politically incorrect. We’ve felt the sting of crossing the line enough times to know it’s not socially acceptable. How then to explain Donald Trump, who attributes his success to crossing that line? What is the Trump winning formula and is there anything about him toContinue Reading

Admitting mistakes

Admitting mistakes

We live with a curious irony: everyone makes mistakes, but no one admits to making them.  OK, maybe you’re one of the few that admits theirs, but most people are as unwilling to admit their mistakes as they are to draw attention to the piece of lettuce stuck between their teeth. That’s curious isn’t it?Continue Reading

What you’ll almost always regret

What you’ll almost always regret

There is no pill to stop you from doing or saying something stupid, but you can reduce your chances of doing something you’ll regret if you pay attention to the mood you’re in. There are two moods that promote actions you will almost always regret: anger and fear. Acting from anger I’ve regretted almost everyContinue Reading

Dispelling regret

Dispelling regret

The biggest problem with regret is that it keeps your attention on the past where you re-play your favourite beat-yourself-up stories, or you play out different scenarios of how your life would have turned out better if only you hadn’t insulted your boss, or chose what was behind door 2 instead of door 3. MostContinue Reading

Regret is like dogshit

Regret is like dogshit

Most of us wrestle with regret from time to time and it’s interesting to notice how often we do. For many of us, we never seem to win our regret re-matches and we seem to be locked in an ongoing conflict between how things are and how things might have been…if only. What is regretContinue Reading

Why it’s so hard to improve work engagement

Why it’s so hard to improve work engagement

Work engagement numbers haven’t changed much since 2011. Gallup’s State of the American workplace update has the percentage of disengaged workers in 2015 as 68% down from 71% in 2011. Not stellar progress given the focus Gallup and others have given the problem. More importantly though, I think the idea that 68% of the AmericanContinue Reading

Awakening from indoctrination

Awakening from indoctrination

No one likes to think of themselves as indoctrinated, but you would be the rare person indeed who wasn’t indoctrinated into something: religion, patriotism, or (insert favourite sports team here). A profound sign of your own personal growth is noticing where you’ve been indoctrinated and choosing what parts of your indoctrination—if any—are worth keeping. IndoctrinationContinue Reading

Faith 101

Faith 101

If you’re not a religious person you might think faith has no significant place in your life. I certainly did, but I’m coming home to this word that I once rejected, and I think everyone practices faith whether they realize it or not. My early experience with faith Growing up as a Roman catholic, I heardContinue Reading

Are you a hypocrite?

Let’s save some time. Of course you are; at least if you go by the strict definition of the word. Hypocrisy is the practice of claiming moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behaviour does not conform. Every one is a hypocrite in some area of their life. What is hypocrisy? But hypocrisy orContinue Reading

Stay calm and carry on

Stay calm and carry on

I’ve always noticed calm people. Perhaps because most people aren’t, but also because it seems so clear that calm people don’t suffer the stresses of modern life: the insults, accusations, disappointments, injustices, incompetence, corruption, arrogance, disloyalty, unkindness, cruelty, unwillingness, bullying and more; and that’s just from my 12-year old.  Just kidding, I don’t have kids.Continue Reading

Thinking now old-fashioned

Thinking now old-fashioned

The truth, we’ve been told, is out there somewhere and we can thank science for showing us how to arrive at truth, reject untruth, and most importantly to dethrone old truth’s that no longer apply. This is good because the truth is much bigger and more unknowable than we give it credit for; that’s whyContinue Reading

Why working hard can get you nowhere

Why working hard can get you nowhere

We’ve been taught that hard work, not intelligence, is the key to success, but that couldn’t be true.  If it were then why are millions of very hard-working people experiencing stress, regret, disappointment and fear? Millions of people live in a perpetual cycle of (1) work hard, (2) worry and (3) repeat.   At theContinue Reading

It’s never to late to craft Ambition

It’s never to late to craft Ambition

Ambition gets no respect. It’s hard to respect something that you don’t understand. Many hold ambition as a drive to succeed that causes those driven to do whatever it takes to win, including stab people in the back.  For many, ambitious people are not to be trusted.  Yet we also know that ambition is somethingContinue Reading

How airports really connect us

How airports really connect us

It’s easy to believe that we’re surrounded by hate, mistrust, violence etc.  News reports often add the cute human or animal story at the end of their programs as an antidote to the poison they spread, but because it’s so clearly thrown in as the odd special interest story we don’t even consider that storiesContinue Reading

Stop taking the bait

Stop taking the bait

Ever kicked yourself for sending an email, or raising your voice in anger?  How did that work out for you?  I’m betting not good.  Nothing got solved, relationships weren’t helped, in fact things got worse. So you learned your lesson right?  You’ll never do that again. But you did didn’t you? Welcome to the club.Continue Reading

2016: year of gratitude

2016: year of gratitude

As we think about another year completed it’s easy to get sucked into thought clouds of disappointments and resignations over repeated failures, missed goals and all the bad stuff you read about.  But something happened a few days ago that made me realize that our lives are not just about becoming, achieving and striving, butContinue Reading

The one person you should be in a committed relationship with

The one person you should be in a committed relationship with

When asked if he was dating anyone, a comedian said that he was in an exclusive relationship with himself. It was funny because everyone expected him to name some hot starlet, or at least someone else. What he meant was that he was way too selfish to be in a committed relationship with anyone. ButContinue Reading

Are you changing the world?

Are you changing the world?

Are you working on something that can change the world?  That’s the simple metric Larry Page uses according to Richard Diamonds and Steven Koller in their book “Abundance: the future is better than you think.” What Page uses this metric for they didn’t say, but I’ll guess it’s for assessing whether projects (and maybe people)Continue Reading

The problem with credentials

The problem with credentials

Most of us learned that degrees are good things; that having a degree was the key to a good job, security and a high salary. Older generations came to believe this because they looked around and noticed that the people above them—the managers, the politicians, and professionals — all had an “education.” Therefore the path toContinue Reading

Do you have integrity?

Do you have integrity?

The term integrity is commonly used as a standard of moral uprightness. But whose morality: Taliban, Catholic, Jewish morality etc.,? Morality is society’s distinction between good and bad, right and wrong behaviour and these are not universally agreed. The right to murder, take more than one wife, or educate are all culturally defined, and whatContinue Reading

Why grown ups behave like kids

Why grown ups behave like kids

At a friend’s place not too long ago a father told his young son “Be quiet! Big people are speaking.”  The boy dutifully shut up. I felt sorry for the eight-year old as he wasn’t being rude; he had in fact interjected just at a pause in our conversation the way a polite adult wouldContinue Reading

Do you work “too much”?

Do you work “too much”?

Work life balance is a flawed concept in the same way that love life balance would be—even if everyone passed the phrase around like a bad cold. Yet people often love too little, eat too much, and yes; work too much.  The issue is not balancing relationships, health, or work with life itself, but managing theseContinue Reading

Why work-life balance is silly

Why work-life balance is silly

Work life balance is the holy grail of modern existence.  Amazon’s 15,000+ results for the term shows how desperate we are to find the solution to one of the greatest problems of modern life: work is necessary to live, but we spend so much time working that we have precious time left to live. If workContinue Reading

Why you should start handwriting again

Why you should start handwriting again

We’re used to technology growing up to eat its parents and that’s OK because new technology is always better.  Right?  We certainly don’t lament rotary phones, wind up car windows, or drive-in movies; yet there does still seem to be a place for film, vinyl and mail. So I think it is with handwriting. CursiveContinue Reading

Why leadership is not about being right

Why leadership is not about being right

One of Amazon’s Leadership Principles states that leaders “Are Right, A Lot!” This is a destructive principle and probably a major contributor to why many Amazon employees find the company a difficult place to work. Here’s why: Leaders become rigid and defensive when they believe they must be right The big problem with a leadershipContinue Reading

What to do when you’re misunderstood

What to do when you’re misunderstood

It feels terrible to be mis-understood; when something as clear and obvious as day is described as night by someone else.  When that person is a client or boss it’s even worse. Why is it that people don’t get your point-of-view and what can you do about it? Most common reasons people don’t agree withContinue Reading